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Miss McCarty stole my heart

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By W.B. Evans

Gosh, I knew going from Chesterfield Avenue Grammar School across town to Lancaster High School would be a great adventure, but I didn’t know it would be so intimidating.We eighth grade boys were “required” (by tradition) to “run the belt line.”First, we were afforded a couple of days of acclimation to learn our way around the campus to find our homerooms.Those two days were filled with all sorts of scary threats coming from male upper classmen, like “Boy, you’ll be able to tell where I hit you” and “Your rear end will be branded with my Clemson belt buckle.”Bless Pete, the fear was set upon us.First requirement was to wear the heaviest pair of pants and each hip pocket would contain double folded handkerchiefs. We arrived early on campus, but a double line was already forming on Wylie Street which ran parallel to the school.Upperclassmen with heavy leather belts were anxious for the “fresh meat run.”Many of us wondered why in the world school officials would condone such a spectacle. Of course, it was the male freshmen who did all the wondering.A big, old boy was in front of me, and like a lamb lead to slaughter, I followed this goat down through the swinging leather line.I felt some pretty good stings, but nothing hinted of a belt buckle.The best part of this ordeal was after we ran through, we got to become part of the line.One guy got hurt pretty bad towards the end, and I think the “belt line” finally phased out a couple of years later.Upon earning the right to walk the high school hallways unscathed, the next step was facing was a new bunch of teachers each and every day.In grammar school, we pretty much had one teacher for everything.But now, it was different. To further confuse matters, we had to change to different classrooms, too.Now, you know – all teachers, throughout our first seven years – were mature. My first grade teacher at Chesterfield Avenue was as old as Mama and some were as old as Aunt Bess.My initial impression was that old teachers seemed to be scattered all around.Then it happened.Just like a cool breeze on a stifling, hot summer afternoon, I walked into Miss Margaret McCarty’s English class and she walked into my life.Those of us who had Miss McCarty’s name penciled on our schedules had already done some “water cooler talking” about her because nobody knew who she was.That was scary; the fear of the unknown flooded over me and some of my buddies.There were bets that she was an old maid school teacher, especially since she taught punctuation and Shakespeare.Oh well, time to face the music, so to speak. Here goes nothing; I took my schedule and shuffled into her classroom.I scratched my head and thought, ‘shucks, there must be some sort of mix-up. School teachers aren’t supposed to look like this.’ ”There, standing in front of the room was a young, dark haired angel with a big smile on her face. She was a vision of beauty.After telling us to find our seats, she said that her name was Miss McCarty and she would be our teacher.It was love at first sight for all of us thick pants-wearing boys and the girls were just as thrilled, too.Can you imagine a teacher laughing and telling us funny stories while cramming adjectives and adverbs into our hard heads?And that’s just what she did.Along the way, Miss McCarty stole our hearts and we were glad she did.She was a walking history lesson, too, often dressing in plaid skirts to teach us about her strong Scottish roots.Miss McCarty was neat in more ways than one. You know, she had a real ladylike way of sitting on her desk with her feet propped along the bottom of the front row of desks. Miss Maude Moore never sat this way.My first year at Lancaster High School was great and Miss McCarty was the reason why.I never forgot her and she never forgot me.You know, the years have slipped by, but she still calls me by name when we occasionally encounter each other at the post office.And she still has those dark, sparkling eyes and the big smile made my heart skip a beat back all those years ago.She captured my heart to the point that I was a bit shattered when she up and married this local shutterbug who became a local celebrity for his ability to capture the scenes of Lancaster that allow us to “Remember When.”Most of us boys were shattered when we found out that a photographer had stolen Miss McCarty’s heart.By they way, do you recall who Miss McCarty married?If you do, drop me a note at The Lancaster News. Sign your name to it, too.Chances are we might’ve shared the belt line along with a love for this English teacher.That’s what remembering when is all about.